About American Graduate

About American Graduate


WXXI Tackles Dropout Crisis in Rochester  

New Public Media Programming and Public Engagement Initiatives to Help Students and Teachers

The high school dropout rate in the Greater Rochester area is a significant problem – and not just for those students who do not graduate. It affects the entire community, impacting our economy, healthcare costs, and workforce. WXXI's American Graduate project engages with the community and key stakeholders to educate the community on the dropout problem, rally support to get the community involved and help provide pathways to community resources to address the problem. 

The goals of the project are to:

  • drive widespread awareness of the causes and ramifications of a high dropout rate
  • provide community members with ways to actively support at-risk students
  • promote the pathways to existing community resources by partnering with 2-1-1 and other key stakeholders

WXXI has initiated a series of broadcast, online and community activities as part of ”American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen,” a national public media initiative funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) to help Rochester and other communities across America to address the high school dropout crisis.

Every year 1 million kids drop out of high school nationwide. In the Greater Rochester, 5-county region, 3400 students dropped out in 2010. The estimated economic impact on the region is a projected loss of $6.2 million in increased tax revenues and a projected $38 million in earnings if all of these students had graduated. This is according to a study by the Alliance for Excellent Education. 1

Experts agree that there is no “one size fits all” solution to the dropout crisis. It requires input and involvement from individuals and organizations within each and every community. The high school dropout rate in the U.S. is a significant problem. High school dropouts cost the country more than $300 billion a year in lost wages, taxes and productivity, which can lead to a rise in crime, homelessness and substance abuse. This lost potential will have huge impact on our economy, healthcare costs, workforce and global competitiveness for decades to come. 

WXXI is one of more than 60 public media and television stations around the country that are working directly with their communities to address the dropout crisis. WXXI and “American Graduate” project partners, Rochester Mentors and 2-1-1 of the Finger Lakes Region have developed a blend of media across several platforms – TV, radio, online – and community engagement efforts designed to raise public awareness, provide community pathways to resources and offer solutions to increase Rochester area high school graduation rates.

Rochester’s “American Graduate” initiative began in September 2011 with a Need to Know Rochester television special on the plight of black male students in the Rochester City School District. The Rochester City School Board hosted a public screening of the program in October 2011 with a Q&A session facilitated by WXXI News Director Julie Philipp. In December, WXXI News presented The Dropout Dilemma, a live television American Graduate town hall meeting co-hosted by WXXI’s Helene Biandudi and WDKX’s Tariq Spence. The program explored how the Rochester City School District’s high dropout rate impacts the Greater Rochester community.  Participants examined the issue from many perspectives, including the social and economic impact on the region.  In addition to a panel of community leaders, young people and staff from the Center for Teen Empowerment shared their thoughts about how the dropout crisis affects their lives and neighborhoods. WXXI’s Homework Hotline tackled the topic with a 6-part series that aired in November and December to communicate to students the issues related to dropout and the resources and strategies for staying in school. At the heart of raising public awareness about the issue is programming broadcast on WXXI-TV/HD, AM 1370/FM-HD 91.5-2. These programs include documentaries, NPR and PBS Newshour specials, and ongoing WXXI News reports and 1370 Connection educational programs. All of the reports and programs are available on-demand at WXXI’s American graduate website at <http://wxxi.org/grad>.The website also provides community pathways to resources for students and ways to learn more and get involved through mentoring or other volunteer outreach.

To keep students engaged and enthusiastic about learning, WXXI provides resources to support schools, families and out of school programs.  Resources are all available from the WXXI Education Outreach Center at http://wxxi.org/education and include:

  • PBS LearningMedia New York On-Demand Video & Multimedia Curricular System, free to all schools in New York State
  • WXXI Kids Online Games and Videos
  • Homework Hotline, a daily live call-in series and website available to help all New York State students with their homework and learning new problem solving strategies
  • Training for hundreds of teachers, parents, and caregivers in the use of public media to engage thousands of students in their care
  • Informal family education events attended by tens of thousands of people
  • Role-playing History Game Series: Mission US
  • Academic Contests: PBS Kids Go Writers Contest, STEM Video Game Challenge
  • Monthly e-newsletters and daily social media highlights for parents and teachers
  • 15 hours per day of educational programming developed for children and students

1 Alliance for Excellent Education, “Education and the Economy: Boosting the Economy in the Rochester, NY Metropolitan Statistical Area by Improving High School Graduation Rates” (April, 2011). https://www.all4ed.org/files/RochesterNY_leb.pdf


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